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Bluefin boat seeks MSC accreditation

Fisheries Tuna Certification +4 more

A Japanese bluefin tuna operator is seeking to be the first for the species in the world to gain Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification.

Accreditation is sought for a single longline vessel operated by Usufuku Honten, in Miyagi Prefecture, which caught 48 tonnes of bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) in 2017.

Usufuku Honten was established in 1882 as a fish wholesaler and in the 1930s started fishing in the Japanese EEZ and on the high seas. Since the 1980s, the company has focused its operation on pelagic longline tuna fishing globally. The Dai-ichi Shofuku-maru, catches bluefin tuna in the Atlantic Ocean all year round. Family owned, Usufuku Honten is looking to the future and is closely involved with the rebuilding of the Kesen-numa and Tohoku fishing industry following damage cause by the 2011 tsunami.

Soutaro Usui, President of Usufuku Honten, said: “While bluefin tuna fishing has a long and chequered history, Usufuku recognises its responsibility to pass ocean resources on to the next generation. Atlantic Bluefin tuna resources were once drastically depleted; however, due to our active commitment to abide by the strict rules of ICCAT, the latest stock assessment shows a surprising recovery. On the other hand, there is still a lot of untraceable tuna in the Japanese market. We would like to get MSC certified to convey to consumers in Japan what real sustainable fish and sustainable fishing are. In doing so, we believe we can modify Japanese people’s values around seafood.”

Kozo Ishii, Programme Director Japan for the MSC, said: “A full MSC assessment is a transparent and difficult process and I respect any fishery that puts themselves under this level of scrutiny. The demand for MSC certified seafood has dramatically increased in Japan as it has in western countries. Especially for tuna, the demand is growing in Japan’s sashimi market. In its MSC assessment, Usufuku Honten will be examined to see if they work sustainably, including the management system, the fishery’s impact on bluefin tuna stocks and on their marine habitats. If the fishery is MSC certified, they will help fill the gap in demand for sustainable bluefin tuna in our market and encourage the further spread of certified seafood in Japan.”